How to Make This the Summer of Missing Out

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“To me, it’s about setting boundaries,” said Cara Wenig, 30, a sales rep and JOMO practitioner. “In my work, it is really important to respond quickly and to be on top of things so it’s not as if I can completely unplug. But I can be more mindful about it.”

Given JOMO’s Luddite bent, it’s (perhaps) surprising that the tech industry has recently come on board. This spring, Sundar Pichai, the C.E.O. of Google, took the stage at the company’s annual developer conference with the words “Joy of Missing Out” projected behind him.

Mr. Pichai was announcing a new “digital wellbeing” initiative that aims to encourage healthier tech habits via several tools, including a dashboard on its newest Android that shows you how much time you spend per app, suggested breaks from marathon sessions and batched notifications to avoid the update-every-second situation.

All of which means missing out can be a good thing. But how best to do it?

Leave Your Phone at Home

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Struggling to unplug? There’s an accessory for that. Purses too small to fit a phone are the biggest thing in handbags these days, spotted on the dainty wrists of celebrities and Instagram influencers clogging up the feed. Micro-bags have trended before in fashion, but styles like the Jacquemus Insta-famous Chiquito have taken it to new (tinier) levels. Measuring just 3.1 inches tall, 4.7 inches wide and 2 inches deep, the Chiquito won’t accommodate much more than your lipstick and credit card, to say nothing of your phone.

Life Without The Internet

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Not having WiFi in your apartment is a pseudo-deterrent, and cuts down on the most insidious forms of online dickying like video games and Netflix. You feel less connected. More apt to pick up a book. You feel alone and bored and alienated from the world and all of its tedious anger. You don’t feel compelled to constantly check your messages and your notifications and your likes and emails and pageviews.

 

 

Hooked on Our Smartphones

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“Most people now check their smartphones 150 times per day, or every six minutes,” Ms. Colier wrote. “And young adults are now sending an average of 110 texts per day.” Furthermore, she added, “46 percent of smartphone users now say that their devices are something they ‘couldn’t live without.’”

In “The World Unplugged Project,” investigators at the University of Maryland reported that “a clear majority” of students in the 10 countries studied experienced distress when they tried to go without their devices for 24 hours. One in three people admitted they’d rather give up sex than their smartphones.

I fear we are turning into digital robots. Will future generations know how to converse with one another face to face? Will they notice the birds, trees, sunrise and the people with whom they share the planet?

Instead of visiting art galleries, attending concerts or walking on picturesque wooded paths, one woman I know who came to Woodstock, N.Y., last summer spent the weekend on her iPad communing with her many “friends” on Facebook. All I could think was “What a waste!”

 

Throw away your earbuds, boredom is good

'Boredom has its benefits' illustration by Anthony Russo

Illustration by Anthony Russo / For The Times

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Earbuds are like underwear: It’s safe to assume that almost everyone’s got a pair on them at all times… For 10 years, I rarely left the house without queuing up something to play. Then, one afternoon in October, I went for a run and forgot my headphones. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d exercised without a constant stream of stimulation, a cranium full of sound. Nevertheless I continued. After 15 minutes, I started paying more attention to the trail. My mind shifted to daydreams. Soon I was actually enjoying myself. What happened?

Boredom is understood as that frustrating experience of wanting but being unable to engage in satisfying activity. But it’s an extremely short-lived emotion, and perfect for airports, sidewalks, afternoons in the woods. Maybe two minutes pass before I’ve found something worthy of note. “Boredom becomes worse when a situation seems valueless,” wrote Peter Toohey in his book “Boredom: A Lively History.” In my experience, embracing boredom makes the world seem all the more appealing.

My wife and I used to live in New York City. When we finally left it felt like the day was suddenly an extra hour long. Quitting headphones is similar. I daydream more. I have more ideas — mostly dumb ideas, but the volume’s increased. I’ll be grocery shopping empty-headed, and suddenly I’ll figure out a way to resolve the day’s work frustrations.

Something I’ve figured out in my boredom: To be at all smart, I need time to be stupid. Silent time — marked by barking dogs and traffic screeches and the murmurings of neighbors watching old movies. Time that’s reserved to be listless and absent-minded not only reinvigorates my desire in being interested in things, it gives me the energy to be interesting, or at least try.

 

Are You “Over-Connected”?

(Josh Pulman) (Credit: Josh Pulman)

Photo: Josh Pulman

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A group of people wait by a monument, unaware of each other’s existence. A woman strides open-mouthed down a busy street, holding one hand across her heart. Two young men – brothers? – stand behind a white fence, both their heads bowed at the same angle.

These are some of the moments captured in photographer Josh Pulman’s ongoing series called Somewhere Else, which documents people using mobile phones in public places (see pictures). Almost every street in every city across the world is packed with people doing this – something that didn’t exist a few decades ago. We have grown accustomed to the fact that shared physical space no longer means shared experience. Everywhere we go, we carry with us options far more enticing than the place and moment we happen to be standing within: access to friends, family, news, views, scandals, celebrity, work, leisure, information, rumour.

Little wonder that we are transfixed; that the faces in Pulman’s images ripple with such emotion. We are free, if “free” is the right word, to beam stimulation or distraction into our brains at any moment. Via the screens we carry – and will soon be wearing – it has never been easier to summon those we love, need, care about or rely upon.

Yet, as Pulman himself asks, “If two people are walking down the street together both on the phone to someone else, are they really together? And what is the effect on the rest of us of such public displays of emotion, whether it’s anxiety, rage or joy?” To be human is to crave connection. But can our talent betray us? Is it possible to be “overconnected” – and, if so, what does it mean for our future?